Our vision for sustainable transport in the UK in 2030

This year The Big Lemon will be 10 years old.  This is a good time to reflect on our journey, and look at where we want to go and what we want to achieve in the next 10-13 years.

It’s been one hell of a ride.  From humble beginnings with three old buses and a van full of biodiesel in a car park to Brighton & Hove’s Business of the Year 2016, it has been a rollercoaster of epic proportions.

Where it all began…
The Big Lemon was the first bus company in the UK to run its whole fleet on 100% recycled waste cooking oil, and the first bus company in the UK with a Facebook group (that was before they even had ‘Pages‘!)  An early adopter of Twitter, we were laughed at in 2009 for using it as a means to communicate service updates to our passengers.  Now everyone’s doing it.

The Big Lemon Team - Brighton
Team Lemon
In 2017 we have seven coaches, two little buses and a minibus working four daily bus services in Brighton & Hove as well as private coach hire, music festival coaches and Sunday Walks.  Last year we drove almost as far as the moon, taking over a quarter of a million people to where they wanted to go and saving over 220 tonnes of CO2 from going into the atmosphere in the process. We also got stuck into all sorts of local community initiatives such as Brighton Festival, a scheme to help long-term unemployed people get training and work experience, and a lunch club for elderly residents in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean.

Last year we also did a lot of work on the Bigger Picture, asking questions like “what’s it all for?”,”what’s the point in us?” and “where are we going with it?”.

The Dream Team deep in thought
Looking back over the last few months…

The Big Plan for the future
Following a Solar Bus Retreat in Dream Valley, five Dream Team meetings in Brighton, a month of relationship-building in Bristol, two full Team Lemon meetings, umpteen cups of tea and a few sneaky craft beers we agreed on our purpose:

“to enable everyone to get around their community in an affordable, environmentally-sustainable way”

and our 2030 Vision:

“By 2030 every community in the UK has access to affordable, sustainable transport, using zero-emissions vehicles powered by renewable energy and owned by the local community”


Anything’s possible
The Solar Bus Retreat team selfie

because Life’s more Fun on The Big Lemon!
So how do we go about that?


We have decided that the best way to achieve our goal is to hire a Managing Director to take The Big Lemon in Brighton & Hove to the next stage of its development; and set up a wider network to realise the 2030 Vision. This network will be led by our CEO Tom Druitt and would have four functions:

  1. to develop creative and innovative solutions to address the transport needs of the future in a sustainable way
  2. to facilitate the creation of new social enterprises in other communities under The Big Lemon’s umbrella, with shared values and a common purpose but operationally independent and locally-owned
  3. To provide training and coaching to support and develop the new teams in the network
  4. To provide business support in the form of licensing, marketing, administration, financial and legal support to give all the social enterprises in The Big Lemon family the best chance of success.

Would you like to be part of our future – and help us realise our vision?

Come to our AGM on Sunday 5th March at 3pm at Lemon HQ.  The whole community is welcome, but only shareholders are able to vote.  If you’d like to come please fill in the form below so we know how many people to expect:

Do you know anyone who would relish a new challenge leading one of Brighton’s most exciting businesses, and one of the UK’s most innovative social enterprises?  Please tell them about our new vacancy for a Managing Director in Brighton.


Happy New Year from all of us at The Big Lemon!

We’d like to wish all our passengers, customers and friends a very happy New Year!  The last year has been our best so far and we’d like to share a few highlights.

Here’s the 60 second whistle-stop tour:

January: We set our aims for the year:

  1. To benchmark our performance in each area and set up a system for measuring our performance
  2. To use the system to improve our performance in each area over the year
  3. To become the best workplace in Brighton & Hove
  4. To go for growth.
  5. To start operating services with electric buses.

February: We set out our electric bus plans and raised £250,000 for investment in electric buses. We now have two in a factory in Sheffield having their finishing touches done; we will take delivery of these in the New Year.  In February we also went on a team fun day out, digger-racing in Kent.

March: In March we had a big Team day, where we shared our hopes and dreams, both as individuals and for The Big Lemon. The same evening we had our AGM, where it was agreed to invest 80% of our surplus from 2015 in our electric bus plans and in the company’s growth, and split the remaining 20% between a staff fund for our team, and our very first dividend payment for our shareholders.

April: We held two public meetings, in Ovingdean and Woodingdean, to meet our passengers and the wider community to find out how our Service 52 was going and what residents needed most in the future. We also did surveys on all three of our services, and found high satisfaction levels on all services, with highest marks (93% in one survey!) going to our drivers for their friendly, personal service.  Our main area for improvement was found to be the lack of technology giving passengers real-time service information, something we are addressing with our new electric buses.  In April we also won a “Best Recycler” Award from Paper Round for our 82% recycling rate, up from 64% the year before.

May: The May bank holiday weekend saw us kick off our festival season, with Beltane Fire Festival just outside Lewes. We were also honoured to be the subject of Patcham Junior School’s float in Brighton & Hove’s Children’s Parade.

June:  In June we started two new bus services for a large employer in Hove, providing their staff with a shuttle bus between Hove Station and the office, and also a daily coach shuttle between their offices in Hove and Surrey.  We also won two awards at the inaugural Brighton & Hove Independent Business Awards, for Innovation and Green Business.

The children of Patcham Junior School made a Big Lemon bus for the Brighton & Hove Children’s Parade

July: We took over the lease on our depot on 1 July from our landlord (who retired), giving us much more freedom to do things like… put solar panels on the roof (more on this later!)  But before we could anything with the depot we had to get rid of two scrapped cars and two shipping containers’ worth of rubbish!

August: We bought another coach in August, taking our coach fleet from three to seven in less than six months. These coaches worked pretty much non-stop all summer, on weddings, parties, school trips, day trips, music festival coaches and transport for language school students.

September: We won a hat-trick at the Brighton & Hove Business Awards this year, winning the Green Business Award, Best Place to Work, and Business of the Year. Probably the proudest moment in our story so far.

At the Brighton & Hove Business Awards The Big Lemon won awards for Green Business, Best Workplace and Business of the Year!

October: Our Solar Bus campaign with Brighton Energy Coop  won the regional contest for the M&S Energy Awards, with 1473 votes and 171 crowd-fund backers raising a total of £13,325. Together with £12,500 from M&S Energy this campaign raised £25,825 to put 128 solar panels on the roof of our depot to power our new electric buses. We’re massively grateful to everyone who helped, and especially to Sussex Backup, Infinity Foods and Buddies Cafe for their very generous financial support. Incredibly, we also won the Transport category at the 2016 P.E.A. Awards.

November: This year undoubtedly has been the best yet for so many reasons, but what put the cherry on top was recognition at the UK Social Enterprise Awards in London, where we were named Environmental Social Enterprise of the Year.

December: What a year – thank you for being part of it! To finish, here are some stats:

  • over 270,000 passengers carried on five bus services
  • 624 private coach hires, not including regular hires, festival coaches or our subsidised trips for community organisations; an average of 52/month or 1.7 per day
  • 1133 people taken to 12 different music festivals
  • 84 local walkers taken on 7 Sunday Walks
  • 97,700 litres of biodiesel used, diverting 112 tonnes of cooking fat from the waste stream
  • 218,416 miles driven by a total of 16 different buses and coaches
  • 220 tonnes COsaved from the atmosphere (from using biodiesel instead of diesel)
Seasons Greetings and Happy New Year to all our passengers and friends – Cheers!

The Big Lemon wins national social enterprise award

The Big Lemon, a social enterprise based in Brighton has won the Environmental Social Enterprise of the Year  award at the UK Social Enterprise Awards, held on Monday night at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London [28 November 2016].

The national competition recognises excellence and outstanding achievements by social enterprises – businesses that reinvest their profits for good, benefitting people and planet. There are now more than 70,000 social enterprises in the UK, contributing £24 billion to the economy each year.

The Big Lemon was recognised for its use of recycled cooking oil in the buses and the progress made in pursuing zero-emissions electric buses powered by renewable energy.

Tom Druitt, Founder & Managing Director of The Big Lemon said the award was “the icing on the cake” of a very good year and paid tribute to the drivers who put in “120% every day to give an awesome service to passengers”.

The annual celebration of British social enterprises was hosted by two time Edinburgh Comedy Awards Finalist, Nish Kumar. The ceremony was attended by leading UK social enterprises, representatives from large corporates and the Minister for Civil Society, Rob Wilson MP.

Social enterprise supply chain

The Big Lemon and the other winners were presented with bespoke trophies made by the social enterprise, Designs in Mind, which employs people with mental health problems. Social enterprises also supplied all the goods and services on the night, including the catering, rigging, drinks, flower displays and goody bags.

The Awards are organised by Social Enterprise UK, the national trade body for social enterprise.

Peter Holbrook CBE, Social Enterprise UK’s Chief Executive, said:

“Year on year the UK Social Enterprise Awards get bigger and better. This year the competition was particularly fierce, so a big congratulations to insert name of your social enterprise for taking home a trophy.

In a year that’s been dominated by political uncertainty, divisions and inequalities, hearing the stories behind the winners and all the finalists has been a breath of fresh air. Social enterprises show that another way of doing business is possible, one that puts people and the planet first. Because they’re free of shareholders they’re able to reinvest their profits for good.”

Social enterprise facts and figures*

• There are 70,000 social enterprises in the UK, contributing 24 billion to the UK economy and employing one million people.

• Social enterprises are experiencing a start-up boom – 35% are three years old or less, three times the proportion of SME start-ups.

• Social enterprises are much more likely to be led by women than mainstream businesses – 40% of social enterprises have a female leader, compared with 18% of SMEs and 5% of FTSE 100 companies.

Sponsors of the Awards are the British Council, Big Society Capital, CAN, GLL, Johnson & Johnson, Landmarc, Mutual Ventures, Natwest, PwC, P3, Santander and Wates Group. The Big Issue is media partner to the Awards.

* Leading the world in social enterprise, a report published by Social Enterprise UK, 2015 – www.socialenterprise.org.uk/advice-services/publications/state-social-enterprise-report-2015

The Big Lemon wins funding for Solar Bus project from M&S Energy Fund

Following a marathon six week effort from hundreds of local people, The Big Lemon and Brighton Energy Coop‘s joint Solar Bus project has won funding from the M&S Community Energy Fund to cover the roof of The Big Lemon’s bus depot in solar panels to power the new electric buses on clean green renewable energy.

The Big Lemon zero-emission electric bus

The 120 solar panels will generate 30,000kW of electricity – the equivalent of 1.8 million kettle boils. With no emissions, the Solar Buses will reduce noxious gases in some of Brighton and Hove’s most polluted areas and will power the 52 route between Woodingdean and Brighton on 100% renewable energy.

We’re thrilled to have won the regional M&S Energy Award for our Solar Bus project and would like to thank all those who voted, pledged funds and shared our story to help make it happen. This will enable us to cover the roof of our depot in solar panels so we can run our new electric buses on renewable energy.

As far as we know there is nothing quite like this in the country yet, so this award will help us push the boundaries of what is possible and bring a zero carbon, zero emissions bus service to our community.  We would like to pay tribute to the other wonderful projects in our region and wish them well in developing their plans in the future.

Tom Druitt, Managing Director

The Solar Bus project was one of 199 different applications to the scheme, 125 of which were shortlisted.  These were put to public vote for six weeks during September and October and the voting process also included the option to donate to the project via the Crowdfunding platform.

We have been overwhelmed by the amount of public support for this project and would like to say a special thank you to all those who have helped us get this far.

This is a journey of discovery, and we have discovered above all the value of partnerships. We started off with just two organisations and an idea and now have a whole community of people engaged in the project, a number of local businesses supporting it, and enough money to cover the roof of The Big Lemon’s depot in 120 solar panels – enough to run a whole bus service on renewable energy.

Will Cottrell, Chair, Brighton Energy Coop

The Solar Bus project was one of 19 regional winners, with 1549 votes, 170 pledges, and a total of £13,325 raised through crowdfunding, almost half the total amount of£28,798 raised through the scheme nationally.  The project will benefit from £12,500 funding from M&S Energy which, together with the £13,325 crowdfunding donations will fund the solar array on the roof of the bus depot.

Congratulations! A fantastic achievement

Andrew Boag, Chair, Brighton & Hove Buswatch

The project has received support from a number of local businesses including three Founding Partners: Sussex Backup Ltd, Infinity Foods and Buddies 24 Cafe, and five Founding Sponsors: Yelo Architects, Propellernet, Acumen Business Law, Ideal Glass & Glazing, and Mooncup.

sussex-backup-ltd   infinity-foods    buddies

The solar panels will be installed in the New Year and the first solar bus will go into service in the Spring of 2017.


The Big Lemon scores a hat-trick at the Brighton & Hove Business Awards

The Big Lemon was the big winner at the 11th Brighton & Hove Business Awards, scooping the Green Business award and Best Place to Work as well as the big one itself: Business of the Year.

What a massive honour! Huge thanks go to our team for their incredible efforts every day, to the local community for supporting us, and to the people of Brighton & Hove for honouring us in this way. Thank you!

Tom Druitt, MD

At the award ceremony Tom thanked the people of Brighton & Hove for their support and urged everyone to vote for The Big Lemon’s Solar Bus project currently competing for funding from the M&S Community Energy Fund.

Winners featured in the Argus newspaper 

Other big Brighton names who took home gongs on the night included Brighton Gin which won awards for Business Beyond the City and New Kids on the Block. The gin distiller was also highly commended as the one of the best businesses in Brighton.

This year’s Outstanding Brightonian was named as Sarah Springford, Director of the Chamber of Commerce since 2008.

Presenting Sarah with her award, Mike Gilson cited Sarah’s terrific work with the Living Wage. Said Mike:“Thanks to her hard work and dedication almost 300 businesses in Brighton & Hove have signed up to the Living Wage.

“Sarah has transformed the Chamber and delivered some really amazing results on behalf of businesses in the city.”

Sponsors for 2016 included Allied Irish Bank, Brighton and Hove Buses, Cardens Accountants, City Cabs, Dental Health Spa, Gatwick Airport, Gemini Print, Graves Jenkins, Martin Searle Solicitors, RBS, Robinson Low Francis, TSS Facilities and Yelo Architects.

Title Sussex, Platinum Business and Juice 107.2FM were media sponsors.

The BAHBAs are supported by the Chamber of Commerce, Brighton & Hove City Council, Brilliant Brighton, the Brighton and Hove Food Festival, the Brighton Business Curry Club and Brighton & Hove Tourism Alliance.

They all came together to create a competition which acknowledges the diversity and uniqueness of Brighton and celebrates those companies, organisations and individuals who really build the Brighton brand.

The Big Lemon & Brighton Energy Co-op shortlisted in joint Solar Bus project bid

The Big Lemon and Brighton Energy Coop‘s joint Solar Bus project has been shortlisted in its bid for a share of the M&S Community Energy Fund, to cover the roof of The Big Lemon’s bus depot in solar panels to power the new electric buses on clean green renewable energy.

The Big Lemon Solar Bus project with Brighton Energy Coop

The 120 solar panels will generate 30kWh of electricity – the equivalent of 1.8 million kettle boils. This will power the whole of the 52 route between Woodingdean and Brighton city centre on 100% renewable energy, with no emissions coming from the bus at all.

It’s great to be working with The Big Lemon on the innovative Solar Bus project. Brighton Energy Co-op has many exciting projects, but never before have we covered the roof of a bus depot in solar panels to power the buses that live there.

This is the first project of its kind in the UK – a very exciting time for us and a project that puts Brighton & Hove at the forefront of renewable energy and transport in the UK

Will Cottrell, Chair, Brighton Energy Co-op

The M&S Community Energy Fund launched in July 2015 and has already funded 26 projects around the country. The aim of the fund is to enable more communities in the UK to generate renewable energy and become environmentally and financially sustainable. This year there is £350,000 up for grabs for the best projects, as voted for by members of the public.

The Big Lemon Solar Bus project with Brighton Energy Coop

Vote for The Big Lemon Solar Bus Project!

The total cost of the 120-panel installation will be £25,000. The Solar Bus project is hoping to raise half of that through crowdfunding, and attract enough votes from members of the public to win £12,500 of funding from M&S Energy to cover the other half.

The Big Lemon Solar Bus project with Brighton Energy Coop
Will from Brighton Energy Coop and Tom from The Big Lemon in the bus depot discussing how it will all work

Crowdfunding benefits include an entry on the ‘Solar Bus Wall of Fame‘ on The Big Lemon’s website, an invite to a special Solar Bus ‘Founders Dinner’ and even naming rights on The Big Lemon’s first electric bus.

I’m hugely grateful to the M&S Community Energy Fund for giving us such a fantastic opportunity, and excited to be working with Brighton Energy Co-op on the Solar Bus project – with their expertise in solar installations we can’t go wrong.

All we have to do now is get enough votes on the M&S Community Energy Fund website and achieve our crowdfunding target… no mean feat!  We are calling on everyone who wants zero-emissions buses powered on renewable energy in Brighton & Hove to help us in any way they can!

Tom Druitt, Managing Director, The Big Lemon

Vote for The Big Lemon Solar Bus Project!

The Big Lemon is on a mission to bring zero-emissions electric buses to communities across the UK by 2030, all run by the local community and powered by renewable energy.  This pilot project will not only be great for Brighton & Hove, it will also be the first step towards making this vision a reality.

To support the Solar Bus project please

Vote for The Big Lemon Solar Bus Project!

and share the project page at https://www.mandsenergyfund.com/projects/the-big-lemon-solar-bus-project.

Thank you!

So… what makes The Big Lemon different? It’s all about the driver

Sometimes people ask us what it is that makes The Big Lemon different.  Many already know that we run our buses on on recycled waste cooking oil – even if they know nothing else. Some people know that we’re a social enterprise, but many are not sure exactly what that means. But there’s something else too – something even more important.

So what is it?

Happy bus driver

It’s all about the driver.

We believe that by investing in our staff and giving them an enjoyable and rewarding place to work with an emphasis on fun they will pass on the lemon love to our passengers by providing a friendly and person-centred service.  

And it seems to work.

Sue, a regular passenger on our University services, had this to say:

The customer service is fantastic which is one of the reasons why I am sure that the yellow buses are so popular. The drivers are all friendly; there is always a “Good Morning”, “Good Afternoon” when getting on the bus and a cheery “Goodbye” at the end of the journey. If the drivers see you running for the bus, they wait, and in the morning during term time when there are so many students using the buses there is always a really nice atmosphere of happy chatter.

Have you had a ride on one of our buses? What was it like?

The Big Lemon’s shares now qualify for Social Investment Tax Relief

The Big Lemon has received confirmation of eligibility for Social Investment Tax Relief (SITR) from HMRC, offering investors in the company income tax relief and other benefits.  This represents a huge boost to The Big Lemon’s ability to raise money for investment in electric buses, and offers investors an incredible 30% return on their investment in the first year.

The Big Lemon zero-emission electric bus
The Big Lemon has already raised £250,000 for investment in electric buses

Anna Fisher, The Big Lemon’s Finance & Sustainability Manager said

The Big Lemon is on a mission to bring zero-emissions, zero carbon buses to Brighton & Hove. Earlier this year we raised £250,000 for investment in electric buses and we’ve spent the last few months working with suppliers to optimise the performance and battery life of the new buses.

We have also recently completed a deal with our landlord to take over the lease on our depot which will enable us to generate renewable energy on-site that we can then use to charge the buses. Watch this space!

SITR offers investors in social enterprises such as The Big Lemon tax incentives on shares and bonds held for a minimum of three years. Investors can benefit from Income Tax relief, Capital Gains Tax exemption, Loss relief and Capital Gains Tax deferral relief.  Further information on SITR is available on the Government website.

For more info and to apply for shares in The Big Lemon please see our investment page: www.thebiglemon.com/electric


The Big Lemon to stand for Prime Minister

Following a week of unprecedented political and financial uncertainty The Big Lemon has today announced its decision to stand for Prime Minister.

The Big Lemon to stand for Prime Minister

Announcing the decision, The Big Lemon said

This is a very confusing time in the depot. Last week we were told we were going to take back control, the repair workshop was going to get a funding boost of £350m a week, and Project Fear was a big conspiracy.  This week it turns out that things are spinning out of control, the workshop isn’t going to get £350m a week, and Project Fear was actually Project Understatement.

Now the bus driver has left, the conductor disappeared, and the passengers are left in limbo not sure whether they’re going forwards or backwards, right or far-right.  Meanwhile the applicant who showed the most interest in the driving position changed his mind at the last minute.

It is time for us to choose a new driver.  Do we want a driver to drive back to the depot, close the gates and lock up? Or do we want a driver to drive out into the world, to serve our communities near and far, and spread happiness and kindness wherever they go?

Head to Head: The Big Lemon and the Vote Leave battle bus
Head to Head: The Big Lemon and the Vote Leave battle bus
Key manifesto pledges are:

  1. Freedom of movement for everyone
  2. A friendly and helpful driver
  3. Free hugs for all passengers

A great day out with The Big Lemon

Guest Blog from Brighton Area Buswatch

I joined The Big Lemon on the first of their regular Sunday walks for 2016. A Big Lemon bus leaves Old Steine at 10:30 on the first Sunday of each month and takes passengers to the start of the walk. The same bus meets us again at the end of the walk which is always a pub with an opportunity for lunch. 

The April walk began at Bramber Castle near Steyning with a stroll around the castle remains. We then walked through the pretty village of Upper Beeding to the South Downs Way. It was a fairly steep walk up-hill from there, but the views from the top were outstanding. From there, we remained on an undulating ridge for most of the way to Devil’s Dyke, which took about two hours.

The Big Lemon bus for Sunday Walks - Brighton & Hove
On the way from Upper Beeding up to the South Downs Way
Sheep with their new born lambs were plentiful as well as cows and a field with what looked like young bulls – it was difficult to tell from a distance and we weren’t going any closer! 

The walk finished at the Devil’s Dyke pub where some of our group ordered lunch and we all sat outside enjoying the sunshine and views. 

The Devil’s Dyke pub was very busy but the food was good and better than some expected. Pub food isn’t included and some of the group had bought their own sandwiches or snacks. It was suggested that this walk should go in the opposite direction as the smaller pubs in Upper Beeding looked more interesting and the last part would be down hill.

Sheep and Lambs on the South Downs Way.jpg

About twenty people had joined the walk and they were a very friendly crowd. I felt welcome as soon as I arrived at the Old Steine where Mick and his dog Becky (in the photo) were standing outside the bus. 

Everyone seemed to talk to everyone else during the course of the walk; it was interesting to meet people from a variety of backgrounds and ages. They included students, a yoga teacher as well as older couples. 

The walk was led by Anna from The Big Lemon who had a map and made sure we all kept together. As I boarded the bus to return to Brighton I discovered that driver Neil used to drive buses in Canterbury where I grew up, so we had a good chat about that. We arrived back in Brighton at 3.30pm, but this time varies according to the length and location of the walk.

The Big Lemon bus for Sunday Walks - Brighton & Hove
Passengers boarding the minibus at Devil’s Dyke after the walk
It was a really splendid day out, well organised and with a very welcoming and friendly crowd, many of whom tried to made it a regular event. The next walk on Sunday 1 May is to the Ashdown Forest. Thoroughly recommended! For more information go to www.thebiglemon.com/walks

So… what do our passengers think?

Last week we met with residents on the route of our 52 service for a general catch-up and an opportunity to share latest news and get passenger feedback.  We held two meetings: one in Woodingdean and one in Ovingdean, and alongside the meetings we’ve also been running a survey.

The Big Lemon's Ovingdean 52 meeting
Residents at the meeting in St Wulfran’s Church, Ovingdean
The main news shared at the meeting was that the existing contract for Route 52 (which relies on Brighton & Hove City Council for the majority of its funding) was due to expire this September, but the contract has been renewed for another year.  We’re very happy that it is continuing and residents also expressed great relief. The million dollar question of course is what happens next year but we will continue to support residents to keep their bus service as we understand how much of a lifeline it is for them.

It was great to hear feedback from residents, and on the whole this was very positive.  Residents said they liked the new ticket machines and the fact they can now use key cards and mobile tickets on the service.  They also liked the new bus on the route, even though currently it’s not yellow (it’s a temporary trial bus so we can’t paint it!) The new bus was reported to be very comfortable, and has also improved reliability. Residents were unanimous in their praise for the drivers, which was lovely to hear.

The Big Lemon Route 52 Bus Brighton & Hove
The new bus outside Cowley Drive shops ready for its last trip to the Marina. We’re using this one temporarily while we get our electric buses ready.

In terms of improvements, the main request was for an improved information system to give real-time running information, so we are taking steps to get the ball rolling on that and hope to include it when we move to the new electric buses.

Feedback from our survey was very similar to feedback from residents at our meetings; the main findings are below:

Brighton & Hove Bus Services - Route 52 passenger survey: use

Brighton & Hove Bus Services - Route 52 passenger survey: destinationsBrighton & Hove Bus Services - Route 52 passenger survey: destinations

Brighton & Hove Bus Services - Route 52 passenger survey: payment

Brighton & Hove Bus Services - Route 52 passenger survey: frequency

Then towards the end we asked people to rate the service:

Brighton & Hove Bus Services - Route 52 passenger survey: ratings

By no means a scientific sample (14 respondents in total) but it did give us a flavour of how we’re doing, and it was nice to see most respondents ‘very’ or ‘mostly’ satisfied!  There were no scores of ‘never’, and at most only one ‘rarely’ in each category; and the three ‘rarelys’ were from the same person, who also reported that they used the bus ‘only occasionally’ and declined to answer the question on how we can improve the service… So we’re not sure what to do with that one!

But what do YOU think?! Put your comments in the box below 🙂


This time next year…

Today is World Happiness Day.  By complete coincidence, it’s also the day we had our Staff Day, and our AGM.  Which is all very apt, as happiness runs through everything we do, from our vision to our ideals, our goals, our hopes and dreams for our staff team, the experience we give our passengers on our buses, and our community at large.

During the course of the day with the team we explored a number of questions such as “Your aims for The Big Lemon”, “What you most enjoy about your job”, “One thing you would change” and “One thing you want to do before you die”.  Without wanting to get too morbid, the aim of the day was to take a step back from the coalface (or the renewable energy frontline!) and consider our priorities, hopes and dreams, for The Big Lemon but also for ourselves and our colleagues.

The Big Lemon Sustainable Bus & Coach services - hopes and dreams
Team Lemon’s hopes and dreams
Following all this hard work it was time for a well-earned cup of tea 🙂

"You can call me Anna at weekends"
“You can call me Anna at weekends”
Then it was off to the pub for team Sunday lunch before heading over to Brighton’s wonderful new community arts and cultural centre, the Synergy Centre, for our AGM. Here we joined The Big Lemon’s shareholders and members of the community of over 150 bondholders to look at our progress of the last year, and our plans for this year.

The Big Lemon Sustainable Bus Services & Eco Coach Hire - Headline Financials 2012-2015
The Big Lemon’s Headline Financials 2012-2015
The Big Lemon Sustainable Bus Services & Eco Coach Hire - Goals 2016
The Big Lemon’s Goals for 2016

The Big Lemon Sustainable Bus Services & Eco Coach Hire - Electric Buses 2016
Electric Bus emissions comparison
After a presentation and questions over last year’s progress and our plans for this year we got down to the formal business of the AGM, which was to decide how to allocate the company’s surpluses, and vote fresh talent onto our Board of Directors.

We have been blessed with two incredibly talented people with very relevant skills, Mitali Mookerjee and Martin Ashby, who were both elected to the Board and will make a huge difference.  We were also lucky enough to have an offer of help from a local graphic designer, Mark Griffin, who will help us make our business look the business.

Finally, we discussed how we allocate our surpluses.  There was a proposal from the Board that 80% of our profits will be re-invested, 10% will be paid in a dividend to our shareholders – the first dividend we’ve ever paid – and 10% to our staff as a thank you for all the hard work. Happily, everyone agreed unanimously to the proposal and a motion to have equal staff and shareholder ‘pots’ moving forward was also unanimously supported.

We won’t be millionaires next year but we have lots of exciting plans, our shareholders are benefitting from a dividend for the first time, and our staff have a pot of gold to do something amazing with.  Happy with that 🙂

We did it! Thank you so much

We asked, you responded.  Over a hundred of you!  

The Big Lemon zero-emission electric bus

In January we launched a community bond issue with an initial target of £100,000 to enable us to buy an electric bus for use on our services in Brighton & Hove. In ten days we were halfway there and a week later we reached our initial target but the offers kept coming so we re-jigged the business plan and set our sights on a new target of £200,000 to fund two buses.

In the last few days we have exceeded our new target, with a grand total of £250,ooo raised for new zero-emission electric vehicles for Brighton & Hove.

We’re very excited at the prospect of running electric buses in Brighton & Hove, and would like to thank everyone who’s invested in us, as well as all those who’ve offered support in other ways. The response to our campaign has been incredible, and the money raised will enable us to further reduce emissions in the city and improve air quality. It will also give us probably the greenest fleet of buses in the country, which we hope will open up further opportunity to offer sustainable bus services in Brighton & Hove and beyond.

Tom Druitt, MD, The Big Lemon

The £250,000 will be spent on two electric buses and the charging stations to keep them topped up. The buses will be able to run the whole day with the help of short bursts of extra electricity provided by a ‘fast-charger’ at the end of the route.

It’s amazing! I’m so happy, its such good news

Jo, passenger on the 52 service

The emissions of the buses will be nil, saving 11 tonnes of CO2, 1.4 tonnes of NO2 and 81 kg of particulates per bus each year. The buses will run on electricity from renewable sources.

Brighton Area Buswatch congratulates The Big Lemon on this achievement. Raising £250,000 in just a few weeks is phenomenal. We look forward to seeing quiet zero emission yellow electric buses on our streets soon

Andrew Boag, Chair, Brighton & Hove Buswatch

The community bond issue is now finished, but if you missed that boat there is still an opportunity to invest. We have launched a share offer for people interested in a longer term investment that we are registering under the Enterprise Investment Scheme. For further details click here

To download a PDF copy of our investment brochure please click here

The Big Lemon raises £100,000 for an electric bus… and another £60,000 towards a second one!

In January we launched a fundraising campaign to raise £100,000 for an electric bus to operate on our routes in Brighton & Hove using electricity from renewable sources. Just a few weeks later we have smashed our target and thanks to local residents we are now over halfway towards our second bus!

The Big Lemon electric bus fund

The money has been raised by selling two-year bonds of £100 each to members of the local community at an interest rate of 6% per annum.  The response from the public has been incredible and with the best savings rates at only 2% it is no wonder they’re selling like hot cakes.

“We are all incredibly excited with the prospect of running zero-emissions electric buses in Brighton & Hove and humbled by the level of support we have received from the public.  Last year was our best year yet and this year is already shaping up to be even better.

We would like to thank everyone who has supported us with our fundraising efforts the thought of running two electric buses in the city is very exciting indeed.  We call on members of the public who might be interested to get in touch and help us improve air quality in Brighton & Hove.”

Tom Druitt, Managing Director, The Big Lemon CIC

“This is a fantastic achievement. The Big Lemon fundraising scheme has far exceeded expectations and we congratulate them. It would be great to see one or hopefully two electric zero emission buses running in Brighton later this year. They will show the way and we hope other bus companies will follow.”

Andrew Boag, Chair of Brighton Area Buswatch

“It is great news that the Big Lemon has managed to raise funds to add electric buses to its fleet. We’ve been working closely with bus operators in the city to encourage them to invest in cleaner technology and they have responded positively which is helping to improve air quality as well as attracting external funding.”

Annie Sparks, Environmental Health Manager, Brighton & Hove City Council

Ryan Wrotny driving a Big Lemon bus
Driver Ryan Wrotny at the wheel of The Big Lemon’s 52 bus on the way into Brighton

“I’m really looking forward to driving electric buses on our routes in Brighton & Hove; it’ll be an exciting development for us and help us offer a better service to our passengers.

I’ve been with the Company nearly eight years and seen a lot of developments but this is the best one yet. I don’t know of anyone running electric vehicles on 100% renewable energy so it might even be a UK first.”

Ryan Wrotny, Big Lemon Bus Driver

Our electric bus plans have received a lot of media attention:

  1. Brighton & Hove Independent: “The Big Lemon raises £50k for electric buses” http://brightonandhoveindependent.co.uk/9497-2/
  2. The Argus: They’re no lemons – bus bosses plan to go even greener” http://s.coop/electricbus
  3. GivingTimes: “Big Lemon on target for first electric bus” http://www.givingtimes.co.uk/big-lemon-on-target-for-first-electric-bus/
  4. Brighton & Hove News: “The public is on board as a Brighton company crowdfunds for first electricbus” https://t.co/3ulIfk0lPg
  5. Latest TV “Big Lemon Buses bid to go even greener with electric buses” https://t.co/EOK1H8uf7Z
  6. Brighton & Hove Independent: “An electric future for The BigLemon” http://brightonandhoveindependent.co.uk/an-electric-future-for-the-big-lemon/


To find out more please visit www.thebiglemon.com/electric